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German-Australian Research on a Difficult Legacy: Colonial Collections of Indigenous Human Remains in German Museums and Collections


Turnbull, P, German-Australian Research on a Difficult Legacy: Colonial Collections of Indigenous Human Remains in German Museums and Collections, German-Australian Encounters and Cultural Transfers: Global Dynamics in Transnational Lands, Springer Singapore, B Nickl, I Herrschner, EM Goździak (ed), Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd., pp. 179-191. ISBN 978-981-10-6598-9 (2018) [Research Book Chapter]

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Copyright 2018 Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd.

DOI: doi:10.1007/978-981-10-6599-6


In recent years, curators of German ethnological and university anatomical museums have begun attempting to resolve the ethical and practical challenges arising from their possession of human remains of Indigenous peoples collected in spheres of colonial ambition during the long nineteenth century. Efforts to assess whether past injustices warrant the return of these remains to their country of origin for reburial has been prompted by Indigenous communities with ancestral ties to these relics requesting their repatriation. In the German context, the largest collections of remains are those of the Indigenous peoples of present day Namibia. However, a number of museums have also found themselves encountering repatriation requests from Indigenous Australian communities. This chapter looks at how the German museum world’s efforts to resolve this difficult legacy has led to collaboration between leading German and Australian museum personnel and scholars with expertise in the history of colonial era collecting of human remains and their repatriation. As the chapter explains, to date this collaboration has largely focused on critically assessing guidelines recommended by the Deutscher Museumsbund, or German Museums Association in late 2003 to its member institutions. Working together, German and Australian experts have drawn attention to how these guidelines—which reflect the experience of German museums dealing with human remains acquired during the  Nazi era—have their strengths, but still problematically reflect Eurocentric assumptions about the nature of death, and the relations of the dead to the living. 

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Keywords:repatriation, Indigenous, human remains
Research Division:Philosophy and Religious Studies
Research Group:History and philosophy of specific fields
Research Field:History and philosophy of specific fields not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in human society
UTAS Author:Turnbull, P (Professor Paul Turnbull)
ID Code:121066
Year Published:2018
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (LP130100131)
Deposited By:Office of the School of Humanities
Deposited On:2017-09-08
Last Modified:2018-12-03

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